Sunday

Sep. 30, 2001

Yesterday

by W. S. Merwin

SUNDAY, 30 SEPTEMBER 2001
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Poem: “Yesterday,” by W.S. Merwin from Opening the Hand (Atheneum).

Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know
though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

It's the Feast Day of St. Jerome, the patron saint of scholars and librarians. Jerome was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius in the year 347. After a dream in which he was rebuked by a divine judge, he resolved to devote himself to the study of scripture, fled into the desert, and began learning Hebrew. His Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, was completed in 385, and was adopted by the Catholic Church as its authorized text in 1546.

It’s the birthday of writer W. D. Ehrhart, born in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania (1948). He enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17, went to Vietnam, and since has written many poems and books about his experience in Vietnam, including Ordinary Lives: Platoon 10-05 and The Vietnam War.

It’s the birthday of poet Larry Levis in Fresno, California (1946), author of The Afterlife and Elegy, which came out after his death at the age of 49.

On this day in 1933, the National Barn Dance went on the air over station WLS in Chicago.

It's the birthday of poet, translator, and environmental activist W. S. Merwin, born in New York City (1927). After graduating from Princeton, he lived for a year on the Spanish island of Majorca, where he tutored the son of poet Robert Graves. His first book of poems, A Mask for Janus, was published in 1952. A later collection, The Carrier of Ladders, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. He has translated Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish poetry, as well as Dante's Purgatorio.

It’s the birthday of novelist Truman Capote, born in New Orleans (1924), the son of a salesman and a beauty queen. He was raised by elderly aunts in Alabama. He quit school at 17, got a job in New York, and two years later, his novel Other Voices, Other Rooms was published. He also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and his biggest best seller was In Cold Blood, which was about the murder in 1959 of four members of a Kansas farm family.

It’s the birthday of novelist Michael Innes, born in Edinburgh (1906). He wrote about 50 mysteries, many starring the detective John Appleby who quotes poems and seldom takes fingerprints.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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